The 2019 Presidents Cup featured a splendid performance by Tiger Woods, both as player and captain, thrilling competition between the United States and International sides and the emergence of young pros Sungjae Im and Abraham Ancer.
But the real star of the weekend was Royal Melbourne, the exquisite Alister MacKenzie design in the Sandbelt, which rewarded angles over power, demanded accuracy approaching the greens and tested each player’s touch, nerve and mental acumen.
Of course, the glowing reviews Royal Melbourne received from players and spectators alike were no surprise to PerryGolf guests, who have enjoyed the temperate climate and finely manicured courses offered throughout the region and across Australia on many occasions. The friendly people and pleasant conditions make the land Down Under one of the five top international golf destinations each year.
Not only is Melbourne, second-largest city in Australia, a delightful destination but there are seven world-class courses within 20 miles of downtown. Each is renowned for firm, fast turf and sharp greenside bunkers which can pose a problem to even the most advanced short game.
Royal Adelaide has undergone renovations since Dr. MacKenzie designed the course in the 1920s, however, it retains a true links feel, making it unique in a region that features mostly parkland courses. Commonwealth Golf Club, which has played host to the Australian Open, Women’s Australian Open and Victoria Open, finishes with one of the most demanding stretches anywhere. There’s only one water hazard on the layout, but ample trouble lurks. Victoria Golf Club, which recently underwent a renovation by Ogilvy, Clayton, Cocking & Mead (OCCM), is where Peter Thomson, five-time champion of The Open, and U.S. Open champion Geoff Ogilvy learned the game. A three-time host of the Australian Open (and future home of the 2022 Australian Open), the layout also welcomed the Australian Masters in 2010 and 2011 with countryman Stuart Appleby and England’s Ian Poulter hoisting the trophy. Kingston Heath, home to the 2016 World Cup of Golf and 2020 Australian Open, may have the most extreme green complexes of any Sandbelt course and the native grasses bordering the fairways provide sharp definition on rugged land. While all the courses take pride in their excellent condition, using Sutton’s Mix to craft fine putting surfaces, Metropolitan Golf Club (home to the 2018 World Cup of Golf) deserves the accolades it receives for being the best of the best from a conditioning standpoint year round. The marquee courses don’t stop there – also deserving of mention include: Yarra Yarra Golf Club, Woodlands Golf Club, Huntingdale Golf Club and Spring Valley Golf Club. An hour away is the Mornington Peninsula, home to three brilliant courses at The National, plus Sorrento Golf Club and the Tom Doak designed St Andrews Beach Golf Course.
The ideal weather and gently rolling terrain make all of the Sandbelt courses a pleasant walking experience.
Away from the course, take a tour of the Royal Botanic Gardens, an 89-acre park founded din 1846 that features more than 8,500 plant species, peaceful lakes and lush lawns. Tour the Melbourne Cricket Ground, the largest stadium in the Southern Hemisphere, with a capacity of 100,000 spectators has served as host for World Cup Finals, Pope John Paul II and the Rolling Stones. The National Sports Museum, which reopens in February 2020 to unveil a massive renovation, is located adjacent to the stadium.
Guests wanting to view Melbourne from an eagle’s perspective will not want to miss the Eureka Skydeck, the Southern Hemisphere’s highest public vantage point. Feeling brave? Step out to The Edge and peer across the vast cityscape with nothing but air beneath you.
Traveling across the world to play golf and absorb the culture is a thrilling opportunity, one to be seized and relished. Once you arrive at your destination, however, it’s a nice perk if there are many exceptional golf courses located within a small radius. Then you can simply unpack your bags, settle in, and spend more time chasing birdies, enjoying the scenery and your companions while you spend less time traveling between your accommodations and the first tee.
These three remarkable clusters, located around the globe, offer exceptional, unforgettable golf, enabling you to play the world’s finest layouts while limiting your travel time. Each area is serviced by PerryGolf through an array of Custom Tours, Escorted Tours and Cruises.
With a population of more than 4.5 million, Melbourne is a beautiful, culturally intense cosmopolitan city in Victoria on the southeast coast of Australia. Combining delightful winter weather and friendly English-speaking people with an entertainment and gastronomic wonderland, it’s easy to see why Melbourne is a popular destination for curious and adventurous global visitors.
Complementing the charm is this delicious appeal to golfers: Just a half-hour drive south of downtown is the Sandbelt region and some of the highest ranked golf courses in Australia – and the world.
“Australia has the ability to become a golfing destination on par with Ireland,” PerryGolf president and co-founder Gordon Dalgleish said following a recent trip Down Under.
Of course any mention of Sandbelt golf starts with the wonderful layouts at the oldest club in Australia, Royal Melbourne’s East and West. The West course, designed by the legendary Alister MacKenzieis routinely Top 10 in the World and No. 1 in Australia while the East course is Top 100 in the World as well. Royal Melbourne played host to the Presidents Cup in 1998 and welcomes the matches back in 2019.
Just down the road is Kingston Heath, designed by Australian pro Des Soutar in 1925 with an assist from MacKenzie, who suggested the bunkering. The course entertained the World Cup of Golf in 2016 and received glowing reviews from the world’s elite professionals for its conditioning and playability. Metropolitan Golf Club might be less well known on a global scale, yet it features bunkers carved into the edges of the greens, a feature unique to the region. Beware the slick but smooth undulating bentgrass putting surfaces.
Golfers interested in onsite lodging coupled with a world class championship challenge will relish the opportunity to visit Victoria Golf Club, site of the 2011 Australian Masters (won by Ian Poulter). The design is credited to William Meader, Oscar Damman and MacKenzie and noted golf writer Geoff Shackleford described their work as such: “I can’t think of a better compliment. You would never tire of playing it on a daily basis.”
Commonwealth is yet another course holding a spot in the rotation for the major men’s and women’s championships held each November and December in Australia. Beware the beautiful yet daunting dogleg left par-4, No. 16 where you’ll face a demanding drive from an elevated tee to a landing area guarded by a large water hazard. Yarra Yarra is a historic layout nearby that features four of the finest par-3s anywhere and the Woodlands Golf Club is a fine, fair test which has encompassed the spirit of the Sandbelt since 1913.
LANCASHIRE COAST, ENGLAND
Golfers wanting to trace the steps of the Open Champion in a history-rich land loaded with exquisite golf must visit this region on the west coast of England.
Encompassing towns such as Liverpool and Southport, golfers can walk in the footsteps of every great champion to ever form a grip and swing a shaft, spanning generations from hickory to graphite.
Let us start with the three courses in the Open rota: Royal Birkdale played host to golf’s oldest championship 10 times from 1954 to 2017 and enjoys an impressive list of champions, with legends like Palmer, Watson and Trevino hoisting the Claret Jug here. The young American star Jordan Spieth added his name to the prestigious list last summer, finishing with a furious flurry to overtake fellow countryman Matt Kuchar.
Royal Lytham & St. Anne’s opened its current course in 1897 and boasts its own rich tradition. Designed originally by the pro George Lowe and later altered by the prolific Harry S. Colt, Lytham & St. Anne’s was the site of Bobby Jones’ Open victory in 1926, four years prior to his remarkable Grand Slam. The course has welcomed the Open 11 times, most recently in 2012 when Ernie Els claimed his third major title.
Returning to the Open rota in recent years was England’s second-oldest seaside course, Royal Liverpool, also known as Hoylake. In the land where The Beatles formed and catapulted to stardom, another mega star, Tiger Woods, strategically dissected the course and outdueled a quartet of competitors by two shots.
While those are the most familiar courses in the area due to their visibility during the third week of July, there are additional options within a short car ride available to golfers visiting the Lancashire Coast.
Southport & Ainsdale, established 1906, was designed by James Braid, a five-time Open Champion, member of the Great Triumvirate and renowned architect. S&A is also a two-time Ryder Cup host (1933, 1937) and features a spectacular clubhouse and patio, delivering sweeping views of the rolling dunes and dicey heather and gorse. West Lancashire is a stern test, which has undergone many incarnations over the last 140 years. The current design is credited to C.K. Cotton and is certain to please, delight and challenge as golfers battle the brisk breezes and swift rolling terrain. Any listing of the area’s finest would be incomplete without Formby, established in 1884 and widely considered one of British Isles’ finest links. Birkdale, Liverpool and Lytham are all within a 45-minute drive of Formby, which stretches to 7,028 yard from the back tees and offers few, if any, flat lies in the fairways.
Lancashire’s neighbors to the north would surely argue, over a friendly pint no doubt, that their area is steeped in history and tradition equal to anywhere in the world. Scotland is, after all, the Home of Golf and the first ever Open Championship was played in Ayrshire in 1860.
The county in southwest Scotland is located on the Firth of Clyde and is the home to an array of links, spanning more than 150 years of design philosophies and alterations, spiked with the ever present and often gusty breezes.
Royal Troon is known for the infamous Postage Stamp green, which turns the 123-yard par-3 No. 12 into a threat more menacing than the yardage might suggest. The hole is just one piece of the puzzle that forms the inward nine, where many a player has watched the Claret Jug slip out of his dreams and vanish into the ether above South Bay.
Trump Turnberry Resort (Ailsa) checked in at No. 22 in the world in the most recent Golf Digest world rankings after undergoing a massive renovation engineered by architect Martin Ebert. The course re-opened in June 2016 and features significant changes since the 2009 Open Championship when American legend Tom Watson, 59 years old at the time, lost his bid for a sixth Claret Jug to Stewart Cink in heartbreaking fashion.
A regular site of final Open qualifying, Gailes Links showcases the genius of architect Willie Park Jr. because he designed it in 1903 and other than the addition of a handful of new back tees, the course remains intact is relevant, challenging and playable. “One of the world’s truly great tests of links golf,” is how former Masters and Open Champion Sandy Lyle described the course.
Tucked between the railway and the sea, Western Gailes features seven holes to the north of the clubhouse and 11 holes to the south, with no hole spared from the howling winds ripping across off the Firth of Clyde. From Vardon to Sarazen to Watson to the best of the current era, the appreciation for this links runs deep among pros and amateurs alike. Prestwick is where the Open Championship began in 1860, beginning a glorious run for golf’s longest-running competition. Located a half-hour from Glasgow, the course measures more than 6,900 yards at par-71 from the championship tees and is a must-play for golf history buffs.
In the heart of the Ayrshire Golf Coast is Dundonald Links, familiar to some as host of the Scottish Open and Ladies Scottish Open in recent years. Designed by Kyle Phillips, this new member of this golf-rich region is a worthy addition, enhancing the overall portfolio and giving visitors yet another option to tackle during their trips here.
During the same weekend that Tiger Woods won the winning point in the Presidents Cup for America, and plenty of money was being won in Asia, little publicity was given to another former world number 1 golfer from the US plying his trade in Southern California simply to try and keep his PGA Tour Card.
David Duval, who topped the rankings in 1998, had 11 wins in 34 tournaments between 1997 and 1999 (including eagling the 18th for a 59 to win the 1999 Bob Hope event) and who won the 2001 British Open at Royal Lytham, has had an almighty fall from grace; yet he still has the determination and will to face qualifying school, despite the fact his successful past would gain him plenty of tournament invitations next year. He finished the weekend in second place, but with another 108 holes still left to play before a tour place can be secured, he’s still a long way from success…but at least it’s a step in the right direction.
Compare Duval’s efforts to those of John Daly, who refuses to attend qualifying school and relies heavily on tournament invitations, only to walk off the course when things aren’t going great, and you can’t help but admire the man. Regardless of whether or not Duval makes it through tour school, he will certainly not lack any support when and wherever he plays next season.
By Keith Baird. Keith has been with PerryGolf for over 11 years and is one of our Golf Travel Specialists.
Tiger Woods returns to competitive golf this weekend at the Fry’s.com Open in California. Having not qualified for the Fedex playoffs, it has been 7 weeks since Woods’ last competitive round when he missed the cut at the PGA Championship.
He returns this week having slipped out of the world’s top 50 for the first time since 1996; although he does have renewed hope, as it has been widely reported that he shot 62 last week at his new home course, Medalist in Florida, which included a fantastic back nine of 29. Whether this form can be carried into tournament play, and eventually into the Presidents Cup, remains to be seen…but at least it’s some positive news about the most famous man in golf…arguably the first we’ve heard about him in 2 years.
By Keith Baird. Keith has been with PerryGolf for over 11 years and is one of our Golf Travel Specialists.